What the Eye can’t See: “Gray-scapes” at Smuggler’s Cove


(Click on any image to expand)

Overcast Day at Smuggler's Cove Smuggler's Cove, Sea Ranch "Smokey" Surf at Smuggler's Cove

We had a pretty overcast day a couple of days ago and I decided to head out to a rocky area just north of Smuggler’s Cove here on Sea Ranch.  I like this spot because the rocky bluff is not as high off the ocean, and with many small inlets and crevices there is a closer connection between the ocean and the rocks.  The heavy clouds are also a good natural filter in the late afternoon light so extended exposures would produce some interesting results.

I shot these images at 17mm using 15 and 25 second exposures with a 10-stop “Black Glass” filter.  One of the amazing and blind luck features of two of these images is the capture of a seagull in mid frame.  I often catch cormorants frozen like this but seagulls don’t often hang around while I’m shooting, and certainly don’t often stand still for that long while I’m taking their picture.  Anyway, see if you can spot them.

I’ve only recently started to focus on B&W as one medium for my images.  I’ve gotten a very good response to my efforts from friends and family, but also many questions about why B&W, and not the beautiful colors that are so prevalent here on the Sonoma Coast.   There are many reasons actually, but as I thought about it more I realized that I’m drawn more to what the eye can’t see, and what can only be produced with the technology of a modern digital camera.  Like the Milky Way pictures I shot not long ago.  The naked eye could not have seen that without the ability of my camera’s sensor to accumulate light in a way that the human eye just can’t.  The human eye doesn’t see in grey tones, nor can it see in anything approximating a long exposure.  It’s just a different way to see the world and to present it in an alternative and more abstract way.  I’m not recording history with these images, but hopefully creating something evocative and thoughtful about the world right in front of us.  A world that the eye can’t see without a little help from me and my camera.  I hope you enjoy my journey of visual exploration.


Equipment:  Nikon D810; Nikkor 17-35 f2.8 lens; Oben Tripod; B&W 10-stop ND filter

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